28 Oct #040 – Integriosity – RENEW—Keep First Things First—Righteousness—Levels of “Good”
In looking at Biblical principles for work and business, we believe it is important to Keep First Things First by pursuing the first principles captured by the word Integriosity–Integrity (and its components Righteousness and Kingdom) and Generosity (and its components Love and Humility). The goal of faith-driven leaders should be for their organizations to faithfully “do right”, and we believe faithfully “doing right” is much more than “doing good”. In this post we begin exploring the “Integrity Priority” of Righteousness by considering what “doing good” can mean in business (and it can mean many different things, none of which are the ancient path of “business a better way”).
Levels of “Good”
We believe businesses without a faith-driven purpose have various levels of what they consider “doing good”. Each level of “good’ differs in its WHY and its HOW, but at each level maximizing profit is either THE end or AN end of the organization. Levels can roughly be broken down into the following broad categories of what constitutes “doing good”:
- Amoral: “good” means maximizing profit by any means necessary.
- Legal: “good” means maximizing profit by any legal means necessary (with “grey” areas of the law being fair game).
- Ethical: “good” means maximizing profit (presumably within the bounds of the law) and adhering to basic ethical principles (whether or not legally required).
- Socially Responsible: “good” means maximizing profit and “doing the least harm” in the process (e.g., polluting less, ensuring supply chain ethics).
- Social Entrepreneurial: “good” means maximizing profit and pursuing an affirmative social benefit (e.g., B-Corps, giving a pair of shoes for each pair purchased)
While there are certainly various combinations and permutations of these characteristics (e.g., a Socially Responsible organization that also pursues profit within the bounds of the law and ethical principles), these levels are meant to illustrate that “doing good” is relative. Moreover, levels may look similar in practice, despite differing principles. For example, an Amoral organization may look Legal if its leaders calculate that the potential downside of ignoring the law (taking into account the risk and consequences of getting caught) is more likely to harm profitability. “Legal” is not a principle or value–it is a strategy. But what really distinguishes the levels is heart.
In fact, most companies strive to be just ethical enough. To get ethics to the point where no one is complaining, where poor ethics aren't harming their Key Performance Indicators. (Seth Godin)
While Biblical principles may be evident in various of these levels of “good”, Biblical inspiration is unnecessary to pursue the desired ends. A business can commit to the Biblical principle of “honesty” without having a Biblical awareness as its inspiration. As Ken Eldred has written, “Character is the long-lost ingredient of successful capitalism, and biblical values are the underlying values of the character ethic.” In fact, a “socially responsible” or “socially entrepreneurial” organization with no faith inspiration can come closer to living-out Biblical principles than a faith-driven organization that is stuck on a Side Road and hasn’t transformed the heart of the organization.
That said, an organization’s “WHY” matters. Treating employees and customers with respect because it is ultimately good for profitability is not really about how customers and employees should be treated. Marketing guru Seth Godin has observed “In fact, most companies strive to be just ethical enough. To get ethics to the point where no one is complaining, where poor ethics aren’t harming their Key Performance Indicators.”
SPOILER ALERT: We believe that organizations committed to a higher purpose grounded in Biblical principles and priorities are called to something higher than “doing good”, and that will be the subject of our next post.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): I first presented these levels of “good” (and the idea that the Bible calls us to more than ethics) when mentoring entrepreneurs in the early days of the Praxis accelerator in 2012. The faith-based Praxis accelerator has developed a robust “Redemptive Framework” that simplifies levels to two “secular” levels of organizational behavior—“Exploitive” (“Win at Any Cost”) and “Ethical” (“Doing Good and Doing Well”)–as well as a higher faith-inspired level called “Redemptive” (“Creative Restoration Through Sacrifice”).